you don’t know what you’ve got…

When I moved to Spain in the late Eighties, I still thought of the UK as my home. Having now, at least temporarily, ceased to have a permanent base in Spain, I seem to be in the opposite position. I don’t think I’ve ever really suffered with home-sickness, but there is always a hint of greener grass elsewhere. (Or, more realistically, greener grass in the UK and bluer skies in Spain, I suppose.)

olive grey leaves against a grey sky

I don’t know if the leaves in the picture are actually olive leaves – there were certainly no olives visible on the trees – but even set against the grey English sky they reminded me of the olivar I used to walk through to get to the pueblo and I had to stop to take a photo.

Perhaps it’s not so much greener grass as familiarity breeding contempt: as the song says, You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

And writing that has reminded me of a poetry game I took part in something over a decade ago, where we were each given a set of lyrics which we had to use for the inspiration for a poem.

In the end what I wrote was closer to monologue than poem, but this seems as good a time to post it as any.

Grassroots Action
(You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone)

Despite our protests – and we did protest:
24 hour sit-ins, coverage on television, letters
in The Times – but still, despite all this, the council sold
that plot at the top of Paradise Lane. George says
a multi-storey carpark on the edge of town will ease
congestion in the High Street, but I reckon
we should take a wider view.

I always do my bit for Mother Earth. I buy
organic at the Eco-drome – it’s not much more
than twice the supermarket price. I’ve told George
he’ll miss it when there’s only Granny Smiths
and Golden D’s; we have to take a stand
although it means we can’t afford
his favourite brand of whisky now.

I’m afraid that George resented my participation
in the Tree Camp; I know he wasn’t sure
I ought to give the house key to the Organiser,
but it meant we all could use a decent loo
and bath from time to time. He doesn’t see
you can’t do press conferences thick with grime
from squatting in a nest at 40 feet. (And as we live
so close, it was ideal for charging laptops, mobile phones
and digicams.) Still, that’s all over now.
Even the environmentalists agreed
the elms were too far gone to save.

Last night, while I was busy swotting up on killer bees
for Mr H’s talk – it helps if someone in the audience
has done their homework and can start the questions – George
went out. He didn’t tell me where, which is unlike him,
but I heard the door slam and a car start. (He must have called
a taxi, though he knows we should use public transport.)
The meeting was a great success. It went on rather late
so we went straight to Women’s Poems by Candlelight
at the Recreation Ground, stayed up to greet the dawn,
then fair-trade coffee round at Maxine’s. Of course he’d gone
to work when I got home. I hope he isn’t late tonight:
I want to tell him all about the ‘Underpass or Bridge?’ debate
– they say a bridge is safer after dark, but haven’t thought
that hedgehogs can’t climb metal steps…

It’s odd, you know; the house seems very quiet today.


Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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